The Four Corners Science and Computing Club is being developed by CZI principal investigators at Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, Arizona, USA) and Fort Lewis College (Durango, Colorado, USA) as an effort to increase interest in and awareness of the role of computers in science before students get to college.
This effort aims to illustrate pathways into open source scientific software development for Native American middle school, high school, and college students in the Four Corners region of the USA (Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona), with the long-term goal of increasing representation of Native Americans in the field.
The Four Corners Science and Computing Club has been made possible in part by grant 2021-237226 from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an advised fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
If you’re interested in supporting 4CSCC or 4CSCC events, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Origins of the 4CSCC
Several programs involving the 4CSCC team predated the development of 4CSCC.
Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals
The oldest of these, the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) was founded 30 years ago to serve the 574 federally recognized tribes. ITEP’s mission is to strengthen tribal capacity and sovereignty in environmental and natural resource management through culturally relevant education, research, partnerships and policy-based services. Within ITEP, the Environmental Education Outreach Program (EEOP) focuses on students and teachers. The vision and mission of the EEOP staff is to foster life-changing learning experiences in the application of science, mathematics, technology and engineering to local issues that empower Native American students of all ages to become self-determinate citizens of their sovereign tribal nation. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, EEOP staff made approximately 5,000 student contacts per year and hundreds of teacher contacts. Post-pandemic EEOP is starting to build back up with regular visits to tribal schools throughout Northern Arizona. Mansel Nelson, the EEOP Program Manager and 4CSCC co-leader, has been working with tribal schools in Northern Arizona for over 25 years.
Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention
The Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention (NACP) was developed as an NIH National Cancer Institute (NCI) program aimed both at reducing cancer-related health inequities and at increasing involvement of Native American students in cancer research. Now in its 20th year of funding, this program has been incredibly successful at placing Native American students in “wet” biology and chemistry labs, but we have struggled to engage Native American students in the “dry” or computational lab aspects of cancer research projects. PIs Ingram and Caporaso reasoned that this might be an issue with lack of awareness in students of the importance of computing in science.
Cultural and Academic Research Experience (CARE) program
The Cultural and Academic Research Experience (CARE) program, developed by PIs Joslynn Lee and Naomi Lee, aims to increase diversity and inclusion in academic and research professionals by engaging underrepresented groups, particularly focused on among Native American and low income high school students, in STEM and medical-related fields through culturally relevant curriculum and summer research training. CARE was designed as a two-year program with students receiving 7-9-weeks of paid, culturally relevant training in chemistry, biology, and healthcare fields in the months of June and July. In summer 2022, 22 CARE students participated in a 1-week didactic training from the 4CSCC faculty.
QIIME 2 is an open source scientific computing and data science platform that is very widely used in microbiome data science. PI Caporaso leads the QIIME 2 project, which has been heavily focused around accessibility, diversity and inclusion in bioinformatics and open source scientific computing since its inception. For example, the original QIIME 2 paper states:
A core goal of QIIME 2 is to cultivate a diverse and inclusive community of scientists, software engineers, statisticians, educators, students, and other microbiome stakeholders who are openly sharing methods, data, and knowledge to advance microbiome research. Bolyen et al (2019)
QIIME 2 is funded in part by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (grants 2019-207342 and 2022-309890), which provided the opportunity for the 4CSCC team to apply for a Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative’s Diversity, Equaity and Inclusion grant. QIIME 2 is also funded in part by the National Cancer Institute (1U24CA248454-01).
Additionally, while not directly focused on Native Americans in STEM fields, PhD student and teacher Jeff Meilander, developed the Flagstaff EcoRanch, a nonprofit sustainability and agricultural education center. It was primarily developed for high school science teachers and their students but has since become a demonstration site for learners of all ages. Through sales of agricultural products, hands-on experiential educational tours, short-term farm stays, and personalized learning opportunities, the Flagstaff EcoRanch has educated thousands of students and their teachers, volunteers, and tourists about practical environmental sustainability and agriculture in a high elevation desert.